Monday, October 10, 2011

So You Think You're a Masochist

So, I've made posts here about my masochism. I'm into BDSM (bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism, masochism) in a deep psychological way, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. As a result, I've received a lot of hits and some emails from people who feel they're also masochists and are looking for some guidance. To help these people out, I offer the following:

Basic Points
  • Masochism as shall be discussed here refers to a form of sexuality in which one becomes sexually aroused by situations relating to pain or acts of domination and submission, specifically those in which oneself is hurt and/or dominated. It does not refer to a metaphor for self-sacrificing as with Twilight's Edward proclaiming himself a masochist for committing to a relationship with a girl his vampire instincts tell him is food; this is simply a euphemism coined by people who don't properly understand masochism.
  • Sadism is masochism's counterpart, referring to a form of sexuality in which one becomes sexually aroused by another's pain or submission. Despite being stereotyped as psychopaths, sadists can be very nice people. Sadists and masochists often share a symbiotic relationship.
  • Mainstream sexuality--that without elements of sadism or masochism--is typically referred to by the slang term "vanilla", as in the standard flavor of ice cream.
  • The word masochism comes from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, a man who would sexually harass his maids by ordering them to pretend to hunt him down and then beat him as a way for him to get off. He also wrote a book called Venus In Furs, which has heavy sadomasochistic themes.
  • Masochism is a spectrum. Some people become sexually aroused simply by being in pain regardless of the circumstances, some people like pain regardless of the circumstances but are not necessarily sexually aroused by it, and some people need to be aroused by other vanilla means for subsequent pain to be at all enjoyable. It's probably wider than that, but those are the variants I've noticed.
  • Liking pain and/or submission in a sexual way does not make one submissive in other aspects of their life, nor does it imply they are domineering outside the bedroom. There was a study suggesting men who earned a high salary were more likely than men earning a low salary to pay for a professional domme (dominatrix), but it's been suggested that the reason for this was because only richer people could afford the fees, not because their success gave them a desire to be submissive as has become a stereotype.
  • Sadism/masochism and domination/submission are not by their nature reflections of patriarchal gender roles. All roles can be performed by all genders. It has been stereotyped as patriarchal by the mainstream media because the mainstream media is heteronormative and patriarchal, but BDSM in all its modern trappings actually began with gay men and has a large queer presence.
  • BDSM is not by its definition abusive. Abusive relationships are such because one partner takes away the power and choice of the other partner. The standard BDSM practices put a focus on consent where the submissive partner always has the choice to end whatever scene is being roleplayed. BDSM relationships can be abusive, but so can vanilla ones. BDSM involves things that would be abusive in a context that doesn't give the submissive partner the ability to consent, but that's why it's important to maintain that focus on consent and make sure it doesn't slide into that other abusive context. In fact, focus on consent is key to all relationships.
  • Though sadists are associated with dominants and masochists are associated with submissives, this is not always accurate. Sometimes dominants order their submissive partners to beat them for masochistic enjoyment, as with Sacher-Masoch's own little abuse of power described above.
  • Being a masochist doesn't mean you are broken in some way. It doesn't mean you have some psychological self-hate manifesting as the desire to hurt yourself. It doesn't mean someone abused you when you were a kid. Masochism is akin to sexual orientation, and this backlash against masochists by vanilla people who don't understand it and try to sympathize through not accepting it are as bad as these ex-gay conversion people. They're patronizing, but try to ignore them.
Links (by their nature NSFW)
  • Scarleteen - A sex education site for teens. It has some BDSM-related articles.
  • APeX - A site about a BDSM community in New York that has a lot of information on BDSM.
  • BDSM? - An intro to BDSM.

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